Cannibalism, Roman Catholicism, and Mr. Potato Head

#Food

Mon, Mar 15th, 1999 03:00 by Jester ARTICLE

(Connections, James Burke, top that!)

The other day I was in a local Burger King, and I started thinking about cannibalism.

Oh don't worry, they won't sue us. I'm not implying that Burger King uses human flesh in its burgers, so the lawyers can settle down. The fact that I was in a Burger King and the fact that I was thinking about cannibalism are purely coincidental. The lawyers may wish to stick around for the part where I postulate that cannibalism is a more pleasant alternative to eating at Burger King again though.

Anyway, I started really thinking about cannibalism, because there was some artwork in BK depicting it. You see, they have this promotion with the Mr. Potato Head toy. If you order some kids meal or other, you can pick from one of several Potato Head toys. One of the toys was drawn on a small placard. It showed a presumably wind-up Mr. Potato Head chasing a bag of french fries.

I realize there are all sorts of additives and chemicals in fast food, but it doesn't change the basic fact that french fries are made from potatoes. And when Mr. Potato Head chases the bag of fries with that hungry look on his big-nosed and mustached face, they are depicting a character expressing a desire to commit cannibalism.

This is actually fairly common in the food industry. For some reason, restaurants, food suppliers and super markets love to show things like cartoon turkeys encouraging you to buy a certain brand of turkey meat. Pigs salivating over a skillet of bacon. Pickles serving other pickles on a tray to hungry consumers.

Does this not strike anyone else as being extremely gruesome? Here we have a creature celebrating the demise of its own race. Picture a cartoon of a roly-poly jolly man chasing a plate with a roast human thigh on it. That's the equivalent!

Of course, this practice actually does occur, albeit it in a more solemn forum. Roman Catholics, for example, practice a kind of symbolic cannibalism. Every time the priest raises that little wafer and says "Take this all of you and eat it, for this is my body," the idea is that this is now a piece of the body of Christ. And let's not forget the wine. It's supposed to be Christ's blood. You must be starving! Tuck in!

The idea of consuming your own God is actually a fairly deep one. Most Gods aren't like that. Most of them get all prissy when a mortal so much as yawns during a party in their honor, then goes and turns them into a deer or something. A far cry from actually letting them chow down on their own body.

Then it occurred to me, as I ordered my Whopper, that cannibalism actually has a long and proud tradition. First, there is the Catholicism aspect. I've heard that a lot of primitive tribes practiced it, but I'm not sure how much stock to put in that.

On the other hand, author Oscar Kiss Maerth actually has a theory that the whole evolution of the species is due to cannibalism. I've never read his book, dramatically titled The Beginning Was the End, but apparently he's dug up evidence that the practice of cannibalism was so widespread throughout the world, that it actually determined the destiny of the human race.

Maerth believes that early man liked to chow down on other early men because human brain apparently was an aphrodisiac for them. Eating brains increased intelligence, which he believed was hereditary, and eating lots of pituitary glands helped mutate the species, and we got less hairy.

No, I'm not making this up. I'm getting this info from a book in the Great Mysteries series, called Mysterious Monsters by Daniel Farson and Angus Hall. They only have a brief write up, which you're getting further diluted by my careless handling. But that's okay, because the guy sounds like he should be surrounded by rubber walls at all times.

But if by some outside chance his theory is correct, and that human beings owe much of what they are to cannibalism, it would explain this Mr. Potato Head thing and why humans apparently don't mind cartoon characters butchering each other in order to promote our foodstuffs. It may also explain why there are some many "____ Ate My Balls" pages on the Internet. It would mean that human beings like cannibalism. But even if that's true, why is the practice forbidden now? Contemporary laws, ethics, and even some of our mythology do not encourage it.

Perhaps it's because our choice of meal isn't very attractive any more. I mean, look some our more prominent human beings. You don't want to touch them, much less eat them. I mean, would you eat Bill Gates? There isn't a lot of meat on him to begin with. Plus, he would probably crash your oven. Would you eat the Spice Girls (in the nonsexual fashion)? If they are truly spicy, they would give you indigestion. On the other hand, you could find out if one of them really does taste like ginger. How about William Shatner? It's true he's a ham, but you'd probably choke on his toupee.

As I chewed thoughtfully on my Whopper with Cheese and I went over these thoughts, I began to think of movies I'd seen with cannibalism. The first one that came to mind was The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover. Helen Mirren is seen naked in the movie, so I thought about that instead. I'd make a play on this whole "eating" thing with Mirren, but that's too easy. She may be getting older, but I still find that woman damned attractive. Mighty fine actress, too. You can keep your damned Jennifer Love-Hewitts, because I Don't Care What You Did Last Summer.

Despite the influences of Mr. Potato Head and Oscar Kiss Maerth, I really don't think we're all that into cannibalism. Nah, the driving force behind our evolution has to be sex, because we're always trying to develop new ways to get it. It's worthwhile to note that even the Mr. Potato Head people would seem to concur, because there is a Mrs. Potato Head, and even little Potato Head children. So you know something's going on there.

Even if you don't see a placard of Mr. Potato Head chasing Mrs. Potato Head with a stick-on french fry erection.

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